C-Suite Celebrity Culture Is Bad For Your Company

By Julia Wuench, Contributor
Two couples exiting a private airplane parked on an airport taxiway. getty

Can you relate to this?

A colleague shouts, “Everyone, shh! The CEO is in the building!” A hush comes over the entire floor. Everyone zooms into their Excel spreadsheets and puts their suit jackets back on. There is a sense of a collective breath being held. It’s like a scene from The Office, only it’s real.

“C-suite celebrity,” or when we elevate corporate executives to celebrity status, not only negatively affects individual employees, but a company’s entire culture. When we glorify the decision-makers with the highest salaries, we inherently cut everyone else down. Many corporations treat their c-suite employees like royalty, with most CEOs worldwide earning between 50 and 100 times more than the average worker. We’ve seen it for decades.

But here’s the thing: c-suite celebrity doesn’t work and it’s terrible for your company. 

Here are the problems with c-suite celebrity mentality:

  • There is a lack of psychological safety that fails to cultivate a supportive environment. A panicked office is not a well-run or productive one. 
  • There is no room for healthy dissent. 
  • There is a tendency to promote an “all white men’s club” culture when a white man is at the helm. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone outside the “boys’ club” to break in. It creates countless missed opportunities for diverse talent. 
  • Leadership feels scary, inaccessible and only listens to a select few “chosen” colleagues while overlooking the less senior (just as valuable) voices.

If the above resonates, here are some ways to combat c-suite celebrity culture:

  • Diversity at the top ranks promotes more inclusivity. According to Deloitte’s Principal & Chief Inclusion Officer Dr. Terri Cooper, leadership traits to strive for are: commitment, courage, cognizance of bias, curiosity, cultural intelligence and collaboration. 
  • Enact a CEO open-door office hours policy which all staff have access to.
  • Reward dissent publicly.
  • Hold open forums for communication with staff of all levels. Make sure this trickles up to the top and is taken seriously.

It’s time to rethink c-suite celebrity culture. CEO’s are people too, and it’s time we treat them as such.

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